Former Israeli foreign minister takes stand in graft trial

Updated 30 May 2013
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Former Israeli foreign minister takes stand in graft trial

JERUSALEM: Former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said yesterday he had done nothing wrong as he took the stand for the first time during his trial on charges of fraud and breach of trust, public radio said.
Lieberman is suspected of trying to secure an ambassadorial posting for Israeli diplomat Zeev Ben Aryeh who provided him with confidential information about a police investigation into his affairs in 2008.
Earlier this month, ex-deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon testified that Lieberman had pushed him to give an ambassadorial posting to Ben Aryeh.
Speaking at Jerusalem Magistrates Court yesterday, Lieberman said Ben Aryeh had indeed given him the information in question “as a good deed” but he said it was useless and that he had immediately destroyed the papers.
“The information was not useful to me. I tore the documents up and threw them in the toilet,” the radio quoted him as saying.
Lieberman’s lawyer insisted the receipt of the confidential information was “not an offense.”
When the trial opened on Feb. 17, Lieberman pleaded not guilty to the charges in a case which will decide his political future.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is temporarily holding the foreign affairs portfolio, in the hope he can reinstate his ally once the legal proceedings finish.
Testifying on May 2, Ayalon said Lieberman had in 2009 asked him to nominate Ben Aryeh as Israel’s ambassador to Latvia, saying he was “the best candidate.”
According to the indictment, Lieberman, who was serving as just an MP at the time, was tipped off by Israel’s Belarus Ambassador Ben Aryeh that Israeli police had contacted their counterparts in Minsk for help with an enquiry into his affairs.

He is suspected of then seeking to reward Ben Aryeh with a posting to Latvia.
Lieberman has expressed confidence he will be cleared on all charges and return to the Foreign Ministry.
Lieberman’s main concern will be to avoid a conviction including both a finding of “moral turpitude” and a prison sentence, which would bar him from serving as a minister for seven years.


Turkey’s Erdogan may seek coalition if AK Party fails to get majority

Updated 38 min 7 sec ago
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Turkey’s Erdogan may seek coalition if AK Party fails to get majority

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his ruling AK Party could seek to form a coalition if it fails to secure a parliamentary majority in Sunday’s elections, but said the prospect of this is “very, very low.”
Polls indicate the elections may be closer than anticipated when he called the snap elections in April, suggesting he may be pushed to a second-round run-off for the presidency, and his AKP could lose its majority in the 600-seat assembly.
“If it is under 300 (seats), then there could be a search for a coalition,” Erdogan said in an interview with the Kral FM radio station late on Wednesday.
He added that the probability of this was “very, very low.”
The Turkish lira, which has slumped more than 20 percent against the dollar this year, has extended losses over the last week on concern about the prospect of political uncertainty following the elections.
Investors fear political deadlock if the AK Party loses its majority in parliament as it would put a brake on Erdogan’s ability to exercise the powers of the new presidential system.
The AKP formed an alliance with the nationalist MHP before the elections, which will herald a switch to a new powerful executive presidency narrowly approved in a referendum last year.
Opposition parties also formed an alliance, which excluded the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). If the HDP exceeds the 10 percent threshold of votes needed to enter parliament, it will be harder for the AKP to achieve a majority.
Under the constitutional changes going into effect after the elections, the number of lawmakers in parliament will increase to 600 from 550 currently.
The AKP has held a majority in parliament for nearly all its 15 years in power, only losing it in the June 2015 election. After parties failed to form a coalition then, Erdogan called a fresh election in November which restored the AKP majority.
MHP leader Devlet Bahceli said on Monday another election could be held if his alliance with the AKP cannot form a majority in parliament after Sunday’s vote.